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Nathan Sykes Interview: “People would not know in a million years that I’m a singer.”

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Earlier this week we sat down with Nathan Sykes to catch up after the success of ‘Kiss Me Quick’ and spoke about his new single ‘Over and Over Again’. Find out about steamy storylines, touring with Little Mix, and which parts of his life he’d like to live over and over again below.

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The last time we met with you was when you first announced that you were launching a solo career and before you’d released any music. How have the past few months been for you?

The past few months have been a lot of fun. I did a small six-date UK tour which sold out really quickly and without people hearing music which was fantastic, really amazing. That was basically to re-introduce myself as a solo artist and introduce not only the new sound, but the new me I suppose and thankfully the reaction was really, really good. I took an eight-piece band with me on tour and I think that really showcased the music really well. Looking back on the year, it’s been a really, really great year. I got to perform at Wembley Stadium, had my first sold-out show in America, ‘Kiss Me Quick’ went to number one on the dance chart in America which was really excited, and I’ve written an album! It’s been pretty busy, there’s been barely anytime to breathe really but it is really exciting and really refreshing to get to know myself as Nathan Sykes and not a member of a band.

Since the release of ‘Kiss Me Quick’ you’ve played some really big shows in the UK and have also had great success in America. Did you expect to have the success that you’ve had when you first announced to go solo or has it all been a complete shock?

I think with everything it’s always a process and I think especially with a re-introduction it will always take time. So I’m surprised, especially in America, it went to number one so quickly. I think at the end of the day it’s just people enjoying the music, and that’s a really nice compliment to have, especially as a songwriter. For the first time I went away and wrote the album completely by myself, I’ve never had that before being part of a band because we were all writing and having people write songs for us so it’s a great compliment. But also at the same time, I do know that it is a process and one that I’m really, really enjoying and surprising people on a daily basis and having people who weren’t necessarily a fan of the band really loving the new music. It’s nice to be getting new fans along the way.

Your brand new single ‘Over and Over Again’ is out now. Because you’ve already released ‘Kiss Me Quick’ are you more comfortable now or is it just as nerve-wracking?

I’m going to be completely honest, I was fine until Tuesday morning. I woke up, made myself a coffee and was going over the rest of the week’s schedule in my head and I was like “And on Friday the song comes out,” and then I was like “Oh my God, the song comes out on Friday, that’s in three days’ time,” and it literally hit me like a ton of bricks and it is nerve-wracking. The song’s obviously very different from ‘Kiss Me Quick’, and I think it shows the completely other side of the album and for the first time I’m absolutely putting my heart out there because ‘Kiss Me Quick’ is very cheeky, very fun and ‘More Than You’ll Ever Know’ was obviously an introduction track which I gave away online for free and that’s a bit bluesy and sexy but with ‘Over and Over Again’ I’m putting my heart out there for the first time and I’ve never had the chance to do that before. It’s just me, my song that I’ve written and a piano. There’s no big production to hide behind and it’s nice to see people really connecting with the song. I’ve had so many lovely messages saying it’s going to be their first dance at their weddings and some people are saying it’s their favourite song of the year. I’ve had some lovely things said about it but obviously it’s down to people to go and download it and buy it and stream it. I am a bit nervous but it’s an excited nervous because I’ve had such a positive reaction.

How did you choose to release ‘Over and Over Again’ next?

I was in LA and we weren’t going to release ‘Over and Over Again’ next, we changed the single three times. I just sat there like “I want to release ‘Over and Over Again’, I’ve just got a really good feeling about the song and I just think it will show people a completely new side of me that they’ve never seen before,” and especially with the video, I’ve had the video since the day I wrote the song. I wrote the song simultaneously with the video which is really cool. So I think it was really nice to show people a different side to me and, like I said, not hide behind a big production and just make it about the song, my voice and a piano.

The music video for the single is a very emotional one. How did you come up with that storyline for it?

I just had this vision as I was writing the lyrics, I could just see it happening in my mind. I’ve got a very strange and creative mind and I just saw it playing out in my head. I actually forgot that I wrote in the steamy scene and the verging onto nakedness. The morning of the shoot I was going through the different scenes and I’m sat there and I see the scene and it’s like “Nathan takes his top off…”, I’m like “Excuse me, what?” So I rang the director and he’s like “Yeah, of course… You wrote it! You should remember.” I just wish I remembered three months beforehand because I would have started working out. So I did 20 sit ups, then I was absolutely shattered so I went back to bed for an hour and then went to the video shoot. What you see is what you get I suppose.

The title of the single got us thinking if you could relive certain parts of your life over and over again, what would you pick. We want you to pick a time before you were famous, a time from your career with The Wanted and a time from your solo career so far that you would want to live over and over again.

Before I was signed it was probably getting into Sylvia Young.I saw the audition when I was 10 in the paper and I knew we couldn’t afford it but I just wanted to audition to see where I was at and what chances I had of making it and what level of talent the kids my age were at. So I did so many auditions and then I got a call from Sylvia saying they’d like to give me a full scholarship and me and my mum were just like “What are we going to do? We live in Gloucester, that school’s in London,” and Sylvia just said “Nobody’s ever turned down a full scholarship,” and I was just like “Yeah granted, but we’re just trying to figure this out,” so I ended up travelling from Gloucester to London and back again every day. But that moment was just so full of joy, but also sheer confusion.

In the band I’d say my comeback after having vocal surgery, that was such an important time of my life. It was my nineteenth birthday and it was really scary. Obviously the surgeon had to sit down and say there was a real chance that I may not have been able to sing again and I was like “Happy Birthday to me!” and I remember waking up from the operation and being told I was on voice rest for a month, but they put their thumbs up and I just burst into tears and it was such a big moment. But my comeback was amazing. Not doing anything by halves, my comeback was at Wembley Stadium completely acapella which, looking back was something that is a very brave and bold decision and one that I’m very proud of myself for making because it was an incredible moment.

As a solo artist, it’s tricky because it’s been such an eventful year and  there have been so many milestones, personal and as a songwriter. I’d have to say writing a really emotional song with Babyface. I listened to Babyface growing up. He is incredible not only as an artist but also as a songwriter and producer. He’s written probably a lot of songs that people would listen to in big moments in their life and he’s just an absolute icon and to write with him was a dream. I wrote a list of dream producers that I’d love to work with and we got in contact and he was like “Yeah, I’ll work with Nathan, I love Nathan. He sounds awesome on ‘Almost Is Never Enough’.” It was just the most memorable day I’ve ever had and just such an amazing experience and I learnt and achieve so much. We wrote a really emotional song, where I think everyone in the room was crying at one point because it’s just very raw. It’s just me and a piano and I think it’s the opposite to ‘Over and Over Again’ which has a very emotive and loving feeling to it and this is just the complete opposite. I really feel like I pushed boundaries on that day as a songwriter and also as a vocalist, I’ve never sang like that before. I was really reaching new levels.

It has recently been announced that you will be supporting Little Mix on their Get Weird Tour next year. Which song from the new album are you most excited to hear the Little Mix girls perform each night?

I absolutely love their new single ‘Love Me Like You’. I think it’s an incredible record, I’m a huge Motown fan and whenever it comes on in the car, I love winding down the windows, turning up the radio and miming it. I have my sunglasses on when it’s raining and people would not know in a million years that I’m a singer, they’d probably think I was one of those people that stands in front of the mirror with a hairbrush. I just love how influenced by Motown it is and it’s my car song at the moment. I very much doubt there’ll be a night where I go on stage and sing it with them but I will definitely be standing side of stage every single night. I’m very excited for it and they’ve got a huge fanbase who have been really supportive to the fact that I’m joining the tour and they’re brilliant live as well which was why I wanted to do it. They’re brilliant vocally and as performers as well and they’ve got so many hits. It’s going to be a really exciting tour to be a part of and I can’t wait.

It’s been a while since you’ve been playing in arenas with The Wanted so which venue have you missed playing in the most and is there a venue that you’re not looking too forward to playing in again?

Probably The O2, it’s such an incredible venue. I’m actually playing there in a couple of weeks’ time which is really exciting and that’s going to be a really cool set, I can’t wait to do that. I don’t think there is one that I’m not looking forward to actually, especially here in the UK, the arenas are really great and when you’re performing in front of fans or people who like your music or people who are just being introduced to your music, it’s always such an incredible feeling. At the end of the day, I’m 22-years-old from Gloucester, I’m doing what I love and because of that I can never have a bad gig.

What can people coming to see you life expect from your set?

You can expect one of two things, it depends what’s going on on the day. I go from one extreme to the other. I go from having an eight-piece band and it’s really fun or I really enjoy doing completely stripped back performance where it’s just me and my guitarist and just a grand piano that I’ll just sit and play a couple of songs on. So yeah, it’s one of two extremes I suppose. At the moment I’m loving performing stripped back, especially coming from a band it’s quite easy for people to not realise what you can do vocally and even for me, I’m still learning about my voice. In the band I was used to singing over five notes and now I sing over three octaves which is really cool as a vocalist.

And what can we expect from your album that you’ve been working on?

It’s going to have two very different sides. There’ll be the fun and cheeky side that you’ve heard on ‘Kiss Me Quick’ and then the emotional side which will be a bit more stripped back and emotional like ‘Over and Over Again’. But lyrically I’ve never written like this before and it’s all very personal and at times extremely personal and vulnerable at some times. Vocally, I’ve never sung like this at the same time. In the band I never used to fight for parts, I used to let everybody else get on with it but now I’m getting to really experiment and test myself and push my own boundaries. I can’t wait for people to hear it. It’ll definitely be next year, we’re going to have a couple of more singles first.

‘Over and Over Again’ is out now. Catch Nathan performing it on ‘The X Factor’ tonight at 8pm, ITV. Buy here.

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